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Why could naming a relative as your executor be problematic?

There are many choices to make when forming a will. One is who to name as your executor in the will. When a person dies, the executor of their estate handles the administration of their estate.

One person an individual may be inclined to name as executor is a loved relative. Now, you are generally allowed to name a family member as your executor, and, in some instances, a family member is able to serve the role in an effective way. However, it is important to remember that just because a person is a good family member doesn't necessarily mean they would also be a good executor. There are certain things that could get in the way of a family member serving the executor role well, including:  

  • Lack of the right personality: The decisions an executor makes during the probate process have significant implications. So it is very important for the executor to take things seriously when making these decisions. Some family members might not have the right temperament to do this.
  • Lack of the rights skills: Some family members might lack the skills, such as strong financial acumen, needed to deal with the complex issues that can arise when administering an estate.  
  • Emotions: A loved one's death can be remarkably hard on a person emotionally. Such strong emotions could get in the way of a family member being able to give their all to the executor role. 
  • Conflicts of interest: A family member may have personal interests they might be tempted to put above the wishes of the deceased or the interests of beneficiaries when administering an estate. 
  • Family rivalries: When there are rivalries in a family, picking one family member over another for the executor role could stir up these rivalries to the point where they keep the probate process from going smoothly.

It can be important to keep these potential issues in mind when deciding whether to name a family member or someone outside the family as executor. As is the case with any estate planning decision, one of the key things to focus on when it comes to decisions regarding executor designation is what would best serve one's overall estate planning goals. Estate planning lawyers can help answer questions individuals have on executor designations and what impacts such designations have. 

Source: WMUR, "Money Matters: Common estate planning mistakes," Marc Hebert, Dec. 10, 2015

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